Friday, December 07, 2007

Bada-Bing Barda Doom
Would you believe that this is Toula Portokalos' Mom?Ever hear of the Women in Refrigerators theory about comic books? It's a theory that women more often that not suffer the worse fates in comic books than the male counterparts. Superheroines routinely lose their powers, get raped, or are cut up and stuck in the refrigerator. This also happens to supporting characters, be it friends, girlfriends, or relatives. Comics writer Gail Simone writes about the trend and gives in examples on the Women in Refrigerators website.

A big example of this just took place in the mini-series Death of the New Gods, wherein a mysterious assassin killed Big Barda. Big Barda often takes on Superman - and beats the snot out of him for awhile before he gets the upper hand. She is nigh indestructible, projects cosmic energy, can see into the sub-atomic level, and can manipulate energy and matter in any way she sees fit. Oh, and she can teleport at will and instantaneously heal other living beings.

Essentially she's a female Silver Surfer, with a pinker complexion (and a nifty Kirby headdress).

And she died, in between panels, in a kitchen, while unpacking groceries.


I know Barda wasn't a first tier DC character, but given her character background, that death is simply impossible. Batman could certainly die a death like that. He's got no real superpowers, just a keen mind and an amazingly conditioned body. A villain could conceivably skewer him in the middle of the night while he was making an omelet.

I don't expect to see that plot development. Ever.

Hence, my full-fledged acceptance of the Women in Refrigerators theory.

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  deposited by Jeff at 1:09 AM | Permalink
6 comments |  Add Your Cents
6 Cents Added:

Have you been reading Gail Simone's work in Wonder Woman and The all new Atom? I've been enjoying The all new Atom in particular. It's a nice relief from the gloom and doom of Countdown and Sinestro Corps.

DC has been busy with the killing in recent Countdown issues. IIRC most of the New Gods have had very quick, or off panel deaths.

By Anonymous Matt M., at 9:24 PM  

I have to say I've been playing armchair quarterback with comic books for a while now. It got too darn expensive, and now I find I can keep up with the story just by perusing the web for a few minutes every now and then.

Gail Simone will be coming to our college for a conference next year - we have one of the few English department in the country that really does serious academic study of comic books. Life is good.

By Blogger Jeff, at 9:57 PM  

WiR is not about more women getting killed than men, it's about the way women are killed as motivation for men.

And yes, Barda was killed in a pathetic way, but I'd say the Black Racer got it worse. The narration was all about how miserable and lonely a life he had and now he's dead, in direct contradiction of the way Kirby presented him.

In fact, since every single one of the New Gods is scheduled to get it in the neck by the end of the series, and most of them so far have been done off panel, or by shots from the sky, to single out one example and try to make any kind of case for prejudice puts you on shaky ground.

By Anonymous Marionette, at 6:26 AM  

Have you actually read Death of the New Gods?
Every single New God is going out this way not just Barda. The Black Racer was killed while in a hospital bed, he's crippled. The Forever People were found as corpses and every single New God was killed off panel or with no or very little resistance. There are WiR moments but this was not one of them.

By Blogger kwaku, at 7:54 AM  

Still, this essay makes a pretty good case for why Big Barda's death is the most ludicrous of the New Gods deaths.

I seriously think it's inappropriate for Kirby's grandiose mythology to be done in during a dishwater dull murder mystery. Rather paltry and more than a little insulting.

By Blogger Joel Bryan, at 5:41 PM  

Sorry. I still have to say it does fit the WiR mold... perhaps not directly as a theme in the comic in which it occurred, but as an example of the trend in general as seen in all comics taken as a whole. Just because all of the New Gods are written out this way does not mean it negates the fact that Barda's death fits the definition put forth for WiR.

Why is it that no writer or editor seems to look carefully at a character's history and make decisions based on those traits versus what the writer thinks is important for their current story?

By Blogger Jeff, at 12:24 AM  

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